The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment on Tuesday confirmed the death of a second person from meningococcal disease. The patient had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins since June 14, 2010.
“It is our very sad duty to confirm that the second hockey player from the C Division of the adult hockey league in Fort Collins, who played in a June 9th game, died early Tuesday morning, ” said Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, director of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.
“The individual was a member of one of the teams that played in a game after which three players became seriously ill with meningococcal disease, ” she added. “This is the second fatality related to that game. ”
Since Memorial Day, meningococcal disease has been confirmed in four Larimer County residents. Infection with these bacteria can cause either meningitis — an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord– or sepsis — an infection of the bloodstream. The two hockey players who died had meningococcal sepsis.
Meningococcal disease is a severe infection caused by bacteria known as Neisseria menigitidis. The bacteria are commonly found in the throats of 5-15% of the population. Meningococcal disease is uncommon, and less than 1% of persons exposed to the bacteria become ill. However, in some persons serious illness progresses rapidly, and it can lead to death in about 10% of those who become ill.
If infection is diagnosed early enough and the right antibiotics are given quickly, a patient can make a complete recovery.
Today the Health Department also announced that results of lab testing done by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) revealed that the bacteria causing the first case of meningococcal disease, (in a CSU student who became sick on Memorial Day) and as well as in the hockey players who have died, match each other. Their samples also match the bacteria from a case that occurred in the Denver metro area this past spring. This means that these bacteria are all clones from the same source, ” said LeBailly.
“Even with this information, we will be very unlikely to tie the cases together directly, ” said LeBailly. “ Many people carry these bacteria in their throats but have no symptoms. Less than one percent of carriers become ill, so they wouldn’t know if they were passing on the bacteria.
LeBailly said that this appears to be a virulent strain which may be new to this area and to which the population may have less immunity. “This clustering among the hockey players is very unusual.
“We know we need to continue to focus on the two organizations where cases have occurred in Larimer County – in the hockey league and among Colorado State University’s student population, ” said LeBailly. Over the past week, the Health Department offered preventive antibiotics as well as vaccination to family and household members of the ill individuals and everyone in the C division of the Hockey League. The department is now expanding prevention efforts by offering vaccinations to all Fort Collins Adult Hockey Association players.
As the Health Department focuses on the hockey players, the university’s health center is increasing its efforts to reach students with information about the outbreak and the year-round availability of the vaccine to students through the CSU Health Network.
“Vaccination remains the main way to prevent meningococcal disease, ” said LeBailly. “This vaccine is recommended for all children reaching middle to high school age, for those going into college, as well as for anyone who wants to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease. ”
Meningococcal vaccine supplies at the Health Department are limited at this time. Call your healthcare provider for meningococcal vaccination information.
For more local information, Larimer County residents can visit www.larimer.org/health or call the Info line at 970-498-6706.
For more information on meningococcal disease, including symptoms, some helpful resources can be found at: